International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh has criticised the Spanish government for opposing the restructuring of its national carrier Iberia.

Walsh, speaking on BA’s inaugural flight to Chengdu, defended the decision to form IAG iin 2011 by merging Iberia with British Airways, despite the drag that Iberia has since had on the group’s performance.

In IAG’s 2012 annual results, BA reported a profit of £347 million, while Iberia reported a loss of 351 million euros (£296 million), despite reported “synergies” from the £288 million merger.

Walsh said: “The synergies [with Iberia] are fantastic and that’s a long-term structural benefit for us. Plus, Iberia had to be restructured, and it’s easier for us to do it and it’s easier to undergo that restructuring in a group such as IAG.”

Nevertheless, he admitted that in retrospect the timing was unfortunate.

He said: “I didn’t envisage such a deep downturn in the euro zone, so that’s been the thing that’s been most out of line with what we had thought. And I didn’t envisage such vocal opposition from the Spanish government, where they failed to recognise with what needs to happen there.”

Further questioned by Spanish media onboard, Walsh added: “I wasn’t looking for any help, but I don’t think statements from politicians that are at critical of the need to restructure sit well with what needs to happen are helpful.”

To see details of the formation of IAG, click here to view the Overview document in PDF.

Tom Otley